Gluten Free Lunchbox Ideas for Kids

Bento box lunch

Young kids like variety in their lunches.  Little bit of this, little bit of that, bite here, nibble there…you get the picture.  A little creativity with simple, whole foods can sometimes be all that is needed to jazz up the old lunchbox routine and encourage little ones to eat a little bit more.

And, always be mindful that:

  • Kids’ appetites vary.  They will eat a lot one day, none another, a little another day.  This is normal.  Kids are very in tune with their hunger and fullness cues and will not starve themselves.  But, if you start catering to them and only start offering favourite foods in order to encourage them to eat “at least something,” you will, unbeknownst to you, assist in the development of a ‘picky’ eater down the road.
  • Kids will eat more and be more willing to try new foods when they are involved in the preparation of the food in some way.  This can be as simple as asking them if they want ‘orange slices’ or ‘apple slices’ or as complex as letting them help make something with you in the kitchen (this will get messy!). If you ask what your kids want, they will be more likely to eat what is served!
  • Kids need to exposed to a new food 15-20 times before they will accept it!  So, did those pepper sticks come home uneaten?  Don’t give up quite yet.  Keep offering them and you never know what may happen months down the road or even years.  Don’t assume that one rejection of a food, means rejection for life.
  • Kids may surprise you.  Just because you don’t like olives, doesn’t mean your little one also won’t like them.  Don’t make any assumptions on what kids want, ie don’t just offer “kid” foods.

So, here’s how to make a balanced, gluten free lunchbox:

  • Protein: include 2 choices
  • Starch/whole grain: include 1 choice
  • Vegetables: include 1 choice
  • Fruit: include 1 choice
  • Fun food/snack food/treat (optional): include 1 choice

Here are some examples:

Protein: hard boiled eggs, nut free trail mix, hummus or other bean dip, tzatziki,  sunbutter or other seed butter like pumpkin seed butter or tahini, seeds (chia/flax/hemp), leftover chicken or other meat, leftover one pot meals like chili, beans/lentils, green peas, lentil/bean pastas, edamame, canned tuna/salmon, tofu, ricotta cheese, yogurt, milk, cheese, cottage cheese

Starch/whole grain: whole grain wraps, whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, homemade whole grain muffins/loaves, quinoa, brown rice, granola, buckwheat, pasta, whole grain french toast, whole grain pancakes/waffles, oats, potato, whole grain chips, whole grain cereals

Fun food/snack food/treat: air popped popcorn, granola bar, energy balls, cookies, piece of chocolate, 100 percent unsweetened fruit juice, store bought treats etc.

Fruit: banana, apple slices, berries, melon cubes, pear slices, canned/packaged unsweetened fruit sauces, grapes, orange slices,  unsweetened dried fruit, papaya, pineapple, mango, unsweetened fruit leathers.

Vegetables: carrot sticks, pepper slices, vegetable skewers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, jicama, cucumber rounds, vegetable soup, vegetables in a one pot meal, roasted vegetables, vegetables in a salad.

Want to make putting together lunches easier?

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